The romance that lured droves of small boys to see them roar by and the mournful metaphor of their whistle piercing the night that graced many a B-grade novel may be long gone, but locomotives keep chugging along.
Amtrak will get 70 new ones for the Northeast Corridor by year’s end, replacing all but high-speed locomotives in its fleet. The rail company said Monday that testing of the locomotives in its $466 million order from Siemens was underway, with the first units expected to go into service by November.
“This will be the workhorse,” said Amtrak President Joseph Boardman, differentiating this batch from the sleek, sharp nosed, high-speed locomotives that pull the Acela.
There is nothing about them to spark excitement in young boys or train buffs. They look like a long loaf of bread with a set of eyes on either end. They are to locomotives what the Soviet era was to architecture.
What they will replace, however, doesn’t look much different. Steam engines and the legendary GG1s that used to roar from Washington to Philadelphia to New York and on to Boston have been replaced by something appropriate to this era.
Siemens Rail Systems President Michael Cahill estimated that the energy efficiency of the 70 new engines will save Amtrak the cost of about 3-billion kilowatts of electricity over the next two decades. Capable of speeds up to 125 mph, they run connected to overhead power transmission wires.
Boardman said that the electric locomotives they will replaces have put in 25 and 35 years of service and logged an average of more than 3.5 million miles, with some chugging closer to 4.5 million miles.
Read more: Amtrak’s new locomotives.